BHUMIKA CHOUDHARY ’18 CONTRIBUTING WRITER
This past March, Trinity made institutional history with the instatement of the college’s first African American and first female president, Joanne Berger-Sweeney. Her illustrious curriculum vitae echoes her accomplishments as a teacher, scholar, neuroscientist and administrator. Many wait with bated breath to see how the new president will influence Trinity.
I crossed paths with her for the first time during Venture Trinity. This is only my second week at Trinity and I have noticed that our busy President has taken the time to send out weekly emails. The first impression students on campus have of the new President is that “she is surprisingly short,” and her smile can brighten up the room.
Her years of experience and sincerity are echoed in all of her speeches. This capacity for public speaking is crucial for attracting donators to invest in an institution that helps shape students into athletes, engineers, senators, filmmakers and bankers.
Part of a president’s role is to help raise funds that will allow the college to grow. Funding is crucial to widening the educational sphere and I believe the President will be able to help expand Trinity’s network of connections. Past experience speaks volumes about a person and the same is true for our president.
Most people share a vision of ‘wanting to make a difference in the world’ during their life, and President Berger-Sweeney is certainly someone who has fulfilled this goal. During her role as the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University, she introduced programs and implemented changes which enhanced the educational system. Within four years there was a 10 percent increase in ethnicity diversity of the faculty at Tufts University.
One of the main focuses of an admission office is often to increase the diversity of the student population, not typically to diversify faculty. However, I personally believe that faculty diversity exposes students to different ideas and ways of learning taught by a variety of scholars who bring unique experiences to the table. Through having an overall diverse community, we learn tolerance and gain respect for other cultures.
To that end, President Berger-Sweeney also introduced the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University. This implementation suggests the importance of diversifying the student body in its truest sense. A rich community benefits the growth of students and helps create forerunners in numerous fields. Many students from various corners of the world enter college anxious and tools like these empower them. President Berger-Sweeney is engaged and has a vibrancy that will transform Trinity College.
Over the past few months, colleges all over have been tackling the disturbing occurrences of sexual assault on campus. President Berger-Sweeney is a proactive member of society that is focused on tackling the issue of sexual assault. She has reached out to students, faculty and staff to prioritize necessary changes. A leader can only succeed if they listen and we have a leader who does.
I wouldn’t simply define President Berger-Sweeney as just a leader, but also a family person. Trinity College is an institution that values tradition and the new president will not only honor but also create new traditions.
President Berger-Sweeney is an avid reader who has developed and polished her thinking through thought-provoking philosophies of numerous authors. A book she highly recommends is, “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf. This dramatic feminist fiction explores a world for phenomenal women who have no limitations. I think it is symbolic of our visionary president. She has a strong personality and is someone who didn’t shy away when her advisor at John Hopkins told her that she is not fit for neurobiology, but rather switched advisors and continued on her path.
Berger-Sweeney embodies the attitude of a fighter and that is the optimistic attitude a president must have.During the term of former President Jones, the college underwent major construction and connected with the Hartford community. We need to spread the Bantam spirit worldwide.
I cannot predict what changes President Berger-Sweeney will make in her coming years. But I can say that I am extremely excited and optimistic about the future of the College.